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Creative Conversations

Mike Pears, Trinity College with Bristol Baptist College

Project Description

The Creative Conversations project is designed to assist churches and those involved in urban mission to develop a deeper awareness of their own location or context. Its specific aim is to help Christian groups explore in particular the everyday lived experiences of those who find themselves marginalised from mainstream society and through their growing awareness of the issues to frame thoughtful and practical responses.

Creative Conversations is the fruit of an emerging working partnership between the presenting organisations and represents a shared interest in developing fresh approaches to training and research in the fields of pioneer ministry and contextual mission. The project is part of a wider suite of projects being developed by Urban Life called ‘Exploring Your Place.’ The idea is to draw on developments in qualitative and quantitative research methods (especially those of ethnography) and to make them accessible and useful in the context of training for mission and ministry. The intention is to foster amongst those involved in pioneering mission, as well as those in parish ministry, a deeper habit of attentiveness and awareness of their own context and, as a result, to develop approaches to mission that are suited specifically to their own unique context.

The project will involve the production of ten to fifteen audio recordings (each edited to between five to ten minutes in length) that explore a wide range of experiences of exclusion, marginalisation and deprivation. Each conversation will take place between two or three people who have shared in particular situations such as long-term unemployment, discrimination, mental health, struggles with debt and low levels of income, etc. In terms of ethnographic research, it is our understanding that a careful preparation for such conversations creates a particular sense of attentive space in which participants and others come to understand the experiences and causes of exclusion in fresh ways. This understanding draws on the use of sensory methods and reflective practice where perspectives that were previously unseen and unknown, even by those who are participating, are made known and revealed. With the appropriate ethical safeguards, including the permission of participants, conversations will be posted online as the beginning of a library of audio conversations exploring experiences of exclusion and marginalisation. They will be accompanied by a series of notes that offer guidance about the use of conversation as a research method and introductory steps for listening to and analysing the collection of conversations.

During the project, we will be talking with partners in Durham and elsewhere to find the best ways to make use of the library of recordings (produced by Urban Life and Pioneer Leadership Training) and our reflections on them around the Common Awards network, and of inviting others around the network to use this approach to research in their own contexts, including the generation of further audio recordings.


For more information on the project, visit urban